Tuesday Links: TPP, Corbyn, Sanders, etc.

Off Guardian (embedded above), Tony Benn speech on the aims of Thatcherite policies.  Via Gaius Publius, via Naked Capitalism, where they are calling it Tony Benn’s “Ten-Minute History of Neoliberalism.” I found it moving, especially his remarks about Thatcher’s demonization of the miners, and that he’d concluded that these fights have to be re-fought each generation. (More on miners below.)


Gaius Publius, What Sanders Can Accomplish by Not ActingThe blogger known as Gaius Publius (the blog is “Down With Tyranny”) has had a series of posts in support of Bernie Sanders that have been picked up at Naked Capitalism. I don’t like the fact that Sanders is running as a Democrat, and I’m sympathetic with the argument (made well by Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report in this Counterpunch podcast interview) that Sanders will thereby be acting as a “sheepdog” bringing left-ish Democrats into the fold and eventually to vote for Hillary or whoever the nominee is).  But I liked this post, which suggests that Bernie could get some traction by promising not to do a bunch of things that Obama has done: push for horrible “trade” deals like the TPP; aim for dismantling or privatizing Social Security; extend tax breaks for the rich; etc. etc. And GP asks us to think of all the time activists wouldn’t then have to spend fighting such efforts.  Our columnist Jerry Friedman will have an “Economy in Numbers” piece in our Nov/Dec issue about Sanders’ economic policies.

Social Europe, Jeremy Corbyn’s Speech On The EU ReferendumMore sensible talk from the new Labour Party leader.  Attempts in the UK press to undermine Corbyn reached a low when the Sunday Express had this dire report (via HuffPo Uk): Jeremy Corbyn’s Great Great Grandfather Mismanaged A Victorian Workhouse, Sunday Express Claims.  Bernie Sanders doesn’t have it so bad; here the New York Times annoyed Bernie fans with an online piece about the few times Bernie had been mentioned in the Times before he was a public figure, starting with coming in 15th in a high school running race (1956: Bernie Sanders, Running Hard).  Besides the triviality and condescension, the original version of the article had young Bernie coming in dead last, when in fact he was just the last among those ranked to get their names in the paper; his time was apparently pretty good.

Lambert Strether, Naked Capitalism, TPP: It’s Not a Deal, It’s Not a Trade Deal, and It’s Not a Done DealHat-tip TM.  I hope he’s right that this can be turned back; he is definitely right that the done-ness of the deal has been wildly over-reported. See also: Joseph Stiglitz and Adam Hersh, The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade;  Robert Reich video, The Problem with TPP Explained in Two Minutes; and our own John Miller’s piece from our July/August issue, The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Corporate Power Unbound.

Bitch Media, Four Things the Government Should Defund Instead of Planned Parenthood. Including “crisis pregnancy centers,” which get funding in at least eleven states.

Washington Post, How Elizabeth Warren picked a fight with Brookings — and won;  Reuters, Brookings fellow resigns after Senator Warren accuses him of conflicts:  Warren criticized a Brookings affiliate, Robert Litan, for writing a white paper against the Labor Dept.’s proposed fiduciary rule, which would require personal investment advisors to act in their clients’ interests; the guy hadn’t disclosed the finance industry funding he’d gotten for the study. As reported a while back at Naked Capitalism (Congressional Black Caucus Still Trying to Hurt Their Constituents By Killing the Labor Department Fiduciary Rule) and in Mother Jones (The Congressional Black Caucus and the Financial Lobby: BFFs), members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been opposing the fiduciary rule, for some reason. I guess for campaign money, but it’s still pretty shocking. Their argument is that less-well-off Black people will have less access to financial advice if the rule goes through–but why should they want advice that is compromised?

The Independent (Ireland): Imagine this: Sweden moves towards a standard 6-hour working day and The Independent (UK): Sweden introduces six-hour workday.  This supposedly makes workers more efficient (but whatever reason they need to give themselves…).  Hat-tip D&S reader Katharine R.

Center for Public Integrity, Johns Hopkins terminates black lung program: This was a unit of the Johns Hopkins Hospital that, in collusion with coal companies, repeatedly failed to diagnose miners with black lung disease, preventing them from getting disability.  Appears to be a result of an expose by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News, Breathless and Burdened. Will heads roll?

Too Much online, The Real Secrets to Grand Fortune: Sam Pizzigati interviews Sam Wilkin, author of Wealth Secrets of the One Percent: A Modern Manual to Getting Marvelously, Obscenely Rich, which ingeniously parodies get-rich self-help books as a way of explaining how, via monopoly and intellectual property protection (among other tricks) the super-rich really got their wealth.  I ordered the book.

New Issue!

0715cover--for-blogOur July/August issue is out!  We have posted two articles:  our cover feature, an interview with Gerald Epstein of UMass-Amherst:  From Boring Banking to Roaring Banking; and John Miller’s “Up Against the Wall Street Journal” column, Trans-Pacific Partnership: Corporate Power Unbound.

Here is the issue’s p. 2 editorial note:

Are You Pulling My Leg?

Hearing some of the justifications offered for dominant economic policies and institutions today, readers of Dollars & Sense may wonder, “Do they really believe this? They must pulling my leg!”

Harvard economics professor Gregory Mankiw, writing in a recent New York Times “Economic View” article, for example, declares the case for “free trade” a “no brainer” among economists. Mankiw engages in the usual sleight of hand: slipping seamlessly from the benefits of international trade, to the desirability of “free trade” policies (deregulating international trade), to support for contemporary “free trade” agreements (which are primarily focused on deregulating international investment and finance, not trade in goods). We might agree that this is a “no brainer,” but not in the sense Mankiw means. The argument is convincing as long as you don’t actually think about it.

In this issue of Dollars & Sense, we have several examples of similar justifications.

Economists Anita Dancs and Helen Scharber take a look at the criticisms of the “local food” movement coming from mainstream economists. Here, the economists’ main case for a “10,000 mile diet” (as one recent book put it) is actually quite similar to the one for “free trade”—based on what Dancs and Scharber call the “CASTE paradigm.” Comparative Advantage, economies of Scale, and Trade, the mainstream economists claim, lead to greater Efficiency. While Dancs and Scharber don’t think that “locavores” have got it quite right, they emphasize that the existing food system is hardly the result of markets untouched by government intervention (subsidized water, anyone?) and that, in any case, unfettered markets would not lead to socially efficient or equitable results.

Gerald Epstein takes us into the world of high finance, and the transition from regulated “boring” banking (from the New Deal to the Reagan Revolution) to the terrifying “roaring” banking of the post-deregulation era. Again, economists claimed that financial deregulation and innovation (like new-fangled securities) were going to deliver vast benefits—fueling new productive investment, making it easier for people to save for retirement, helping families and businesses manage risk, and so on. (More than a few of the economists who made such arguments had undisclosed ties to the big financial firms themselves.) How did that work out for us?

In the “Economy in Numbers,” Raul Zelada Aprili and Gerald Friedman look at the consequences of so-called “Washington Consensus” economic policies (or “neoliberalism”) in Latin America. Mainstream economists and the politicians they advised took advantage of the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s to discredit the government “import substitution industrialization” policies of the 1950s-1970s—and to push for a profound “free market” restructuring of the region’s economies. In fact, economic growth was significantly faster during the import substitution era than during the heyday of neoliberalism—and has accelerated in the last decade, as governments across the region have turned away from neoliberal policies.

The thing that we need to keep in mind is that, though “neoliberalism” may sound like a belief system—the word does end in “ism,” after all—it is really more than that. It describes a set of economic policies or institutions. The ideology of neoliberalism, the unflinching belief in “free markets” everywhere and for everything, lays atop the interests of global capital. Claims that financial deregulation would benefit us all—and the imperviousness of finance to significant reform in the wake of a disastrous crisis—reflect the political power of what Epstein calls the “bankers’ club.” The CASTE paradigm, likewise, is not just a set of fallacious arguments, but a defense of the existing distribution of power in the food system and in society more generally.

That’s what we need to realize. They’re not really pulling our leg. More like twisting our arm.

Also: Rob Larson explains how “Money Yells.” Part 1, in this issue, focuses on the political economy of the internet, and recent battles over “net neutrality.” Kristian Williams explores the race and class underpinnings of policing. And Steven Pressman reviews a defense of Social Security, just as we’re about to celebrate the program’s 80th anniversary.